China’s One-Child Policy

China’s Population DensityI wanted to write about how China’s one-child policy will be a death knell for that society.  I wanted to say that this is a typical Communist takeover of a fundamental right and how it is causing discord and internal strife.  However, it’s not working out the way I thought it would.  In fact, it’s currently working out pretty well. 

Some of it has to do with the fact that before China even implemented the policy in 1979 China had already begun to reduce its birth rate, from over 5 to under 3 children per couple.  The trend toward smaller families follows that of other developed Asian countries.

The policy itself is a little misnamed.  There are enough exceptions to the policy such the official fertility rate today is around 1.7 children per couple.  In the long run, China’s population will eventually fall.  Assuming that the birth rate remains constant, China’s population will peak at 1.5 billion around 2030 and then start to decrease.  Contrast this with India, whose fertility rate of 2.8 pretty much guarantees that it will soon become the world’s most populous nation.  Where are they going to put all those people?

There are some unintended consequences to the one-child policy, however.  In some areas the male to female ratio is skyrocketing as female babies are either selectively aborted before birth or die shortly after birth at a much greater rate than male babies.  This is a genuine concern for the Chinese government as it will eventually encourage more sex trafficking and prostitution, with the resulting associated health and crime problems.

Then there’s the 4:2:1 problem:  A couple simultaneously caring for a single child and four elderly parents.  70% of the elderly rely on their children for support, and there is no government-provided safety net.

All in all, the one-child policy will cause a demographic shift to a more middle-aged society similar to other developed Asian countries like Japan and Singapore.  And while it may be difficult for China to control its population exactly the way it wants to, for a country that is running out of arable land the solution it chose seems to be more or less equitable, and practiced by most of its citizens.


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